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the 2023 women’s UAE Tour in review – Rouleur

Charlotte Kool of Team DSM beating former teammate Lorena Wiebes on stage one of the Women's UAE Tour

It’s symptomatic of the rapidly expanding Women’s World Tour calendar that February was barely a week old and already the second stage race of the season launched last week, as the first ever Women’s UAE Tour unfolded in the desert sandscapes of the Middle East.

Over four stages – three flat and one hilly GC stage – the women’s peloton tested their legs in competition, many of them for the first time this season. It was a chance to see a number of riders on show for new teams following the off-season transfer shuffle: Lorena Wiebes and Barbara Guarischi for SD Worx, Liane Lippert for Movistar, Gaia Realini for Trek-Segafredo and Audrey Cordon Ragot for Zaaf Cycling were among the women fresh from the transfer merry-go-round to pull out strong performance for new teams across the four days of racing, but they all had to have their wits about them under stressful conditions.

Anxiety and echelons

Early-season nerves are a permanent fixture in the peloton and the inaugural women’s UAE Tour was no exception, with a twitchy peloton especially susceptible to splits and crashes, with tensions running high throughout the four stages. This collective anxiety is inevitably exacerbated by crosswinds, and the wide open spaces of the desert races offer these in abundance. 

With little shelter and wide roads leaving nowhere to hide, the riders had to be on high alert throughout the race, and the formation of echelons had a real impact on the outcome of the race, with GC favourites left floundering on the wrong side of splits, and lapses of concentration leading to crashes on a number of occasions.

The student defeats the master

It’s a tale as old as time: the apprentice rising above the teacher to eventually defeat them. OK, it’s possibly slightly hyperbolic in the case of Team DSM’s Charlotte Kool and her former team mate, European champion Lorena Wiebes, bearing in mind both women are 23-years-old, and there was no real suggestion that Charlotte Kool was unhappy with her lot at Team DSM. She rode as the main lead-out in support of Wiebes for the past couple of years, including last season which saw Wiebes ascend to the winningest rider of the women’s peloton. 

Kool beat former teammate Wiebes on stages one and four

Nevertheless, there was something poetic about the outcome of stage one, a sprint finish widely expected to be an easy win for Wiebes. It was Kool’s very first opportunity to get one over on her former team mate, and…

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